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Oklahoma Baseball Swept At Home

By: Dave Myrick

The sound you heard in Norman the Saturday before Easter Sunday, was the OU Baseball team coming back down to earth. The 2024 Sooners appeared to be off to one of their better starts in recent memory after a 3-game sweep of pre-season league favorites the TCU Horned Frogs. In a series that feels like ten years ago, things have dissolved rapidly for Oklahoma since, losing a home series to West Virginia, and being swept by Lamar in back to back weekends. And already find themselves in a must win series against their in-state rival who traditionally has owned OU in baseball, The OSU Cowboys. Already this season having a 14-5 whipping of OU under their belts, in Norman, The Cowboys are set to host OU for the last Bedlam Baseball series in Stillwater for who knows how long. I.E., I would expect Holiday and company to be out for blood against a team who is struggling to throw strikes, or play defense without committing an error.

Oklahoma will have a shot to at least get back on the winning side as they play WSU, in Wichita Tuesday, April 2nd. Oklahoma comes into the game losers of 6 of their last 8, with all six losses in Norman. OU still sits top 30 in RPI, and has the number one SOS in America, but records count. And only at 3 games above .500 with non-conference out of the way, they need to turn things around in a hurry.

ORU

Things weren’t all bad for OU, they did manage to sneak in a win between series losses at home. As Omaha squad from a season ago, Oral Roberts visited the Dale last Tuesday night. ORU is struggling mightily this season after losing so much from that CWS team. OU starter Grant Stevens controlled the Golden Eagles lineup in a fantastic start throwing 6.0 innings full, striking out 4 while scattering 2 hits, allowing 0 runs. Stevens would pick up his 4th win of the season. Offense wasn’t an issue in this one either as Anthony Mackenzie would rocket an RBI single up the middle in the top of the first to get the party started. By the end of the frame Oklahoma had staked starter Grant Stevens to a 3-run lead. Oklahoma would tack on more in the 3rd, 5th and 7th with RBI groundouts by Kendall Pettis, Garza-Gongora, and a throw-out, steal to push the lead to 7-0. In the seventh, Easton Carmichael’s bloop single plated Bryce Madron to walk OU off 10-0 winners as run-rule was in effect (mid-week games and last game of series).

There were warning signs in this one as far as 5/10 runs resulting from outs. Oklahoma scored in every inning but the 2nd and 6th in a very consistent manor, but the big inning… was elusive. It would cost Oklahoma in the next series.

Lamar

The next time L. Dale saw baseball came on a Thursday, hosting non-conference foe Lamar for a Thurs-Sat set. Lamar came in with a pretty overall record, but was thought by many to being due to playing a weak schedule. Game one saw Oklahoma start Saturday starter Brendan Girton in a surprising start for the Texas Tech transfer. He would last 2.2 innings, striking out 5, walking 3, while allowing 4 hits and 6 runs (1 earned). All the unearned runs would be a theme all weekend long. Carter Campbell, Carson Atwood, Reid Hensley, Dylan Crooks, James Hitt and Ryan Lambert would all pitch in this one.

In the 7th inning, Oklahoma was in very good shape to wrap up a game one win in the series. Leading 10-7, a decision was made that puzzled many, including myself, when Sunday starter Jamie Hitt was brought on in late relief for the first time this season, after OU newcomer Ryan Lambert had tossed 1.2 innings of shut out ball, and looked to be in a great rhythm to close out game one. Dating back to last year I couldn’t find any such outings for Hitt. Hitt, who was coming off his worst start of the season on Sunday vs the Mountaineers, lasted only a third of an inning against the Cardinals, and Oklahoma saw their lead vanish as Hitt was tagged for 3 runs on 2 hits while walking one. By the time the dust settled, Lamar had erased a 3-run deficit and led 12-10 as a disastrous 7th inning for Oklahoma came to a close. That would be the final and Lamar took game 1.

Offensive heroics were provided by Jackson Nicklaus (4/5 2 RBI), who hit 3 dingers in 3 games this weekend, and has been one of the most steady and consistent pieces for OU baseball all year. Bryce Madron continues to likewise be one of the more dependable sluggers Oklahoma has, but you’re not going to win many games allowing 12 runs.

Friday things went from bad to worse as it appeared the Thursday night collapse was still stinging the club. Braden Davis took the rubber for the first time since no-hitting WVU a week ago. And got off to a rocky start with back to back homers given up in the first inning. Oklahoma would respond immediately in the bottom of the frame, going back to back themselves, and Jackson Nicklaus would blast a 2-run shot to close out the first, staking OU to a 4-2 lead. Things would remain tight until the 5th, where Lamar blew it open on 4 unearned runs against OU reliever Malachi Witherspoon who entered after starter Braden Davis had gone 4.0 innings, allowing 7 hits, 9 runs (8 earned), walking 5 and striking out 3. Witherspoon entered trailing 9-5 and gave up the hit that would all but end it, as Zach Skinner hit a two-out double to make it 13-5. Oklahoma would add 3 to make it look a little more respectable, but Lamar would take game 2 and the series 13-8.

Like game one, game 2 also had its bright spot as OU reliever Jett Lodes was phenomenal. Going 4.1 innings, striking out 4, and scattering 1 hit.

Saturday, most thought an angry OU baseball team would take the field and attempt to at least salvage one and avoid getting swept. This did not happen. Kyson Witherspoon got his much anticipated second start of the season, and again was very very good, but that unearned runs bug bit him as well in game 3. He would go 5.0 full innings, striking out 7, walking 1 while scattering 5 hits and 1 earned run. The problem was 4 unearned runs that also popped up on the sore-board. Errors on Nicklaus and Mackenzie allowed runs to score, while Freshman Jason Walk would commit a 3rd, and by the 5th OU once again found themselves trailing 5-1 halfway home. They would show some signs of fight as Jackson Nicklaus went deep in the 8th, showing signs of life, making it a 2-run game. But like they did all series Lamar would answer immediately scoring an insurance run on an Evans home-run. Oklahoma would threaten in the bottom of the 9th, but hitting with RISP was an issue all weekend, and the game ended seeing Oklahoma get swept on their home-field with a 6-3 final.

Conclusion

There’s not much time to pine over results for a club that still has Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas on their schedule. Injuries have bit this club, and bit them hard… but not in terms of what’s struggling right now. Pitching, has been an issue. Rotation, unearned runs, errors, fielding… was all on display the past two weeks. Perhaps it’s a good thing Oklahoma takes to the road. Time will tell, but the time for experimenting and figuring things out is rapidly passing, and the time for winning games is now.

OU returns to action Tuesday, April 2nd vs WSU in Wichita